Dr. Flamstead’s and Mr. Patridge’s New Fortune-Book containing . . . Their new-invented method of knowing one’s fortune by a pack of cards appears to be the oldest book with instructions on fortune-telling-with-cards in the English language.  The first edition seems to be from 1729—well before Etteilla wrote his 1770 book on “cartonomancie” and contains a “lot” style method of divination in which the card chosen leads to a verse based on your choice from a list of pre-set questions. However we know from the 1730 play Jack the Gyant-Killer that multi-card spreads with meanings for each card were already current in England. (Thanks as always to Ross Caldwell for additional information and corrections.)At some point between 1750 and 1770 a new, much shorter book appeared called Patridge and Flamsted’s new and well Experienced Fortune Book, delivered to the world from the Astrologer’s Office in Greenwich Park, for the benefit of all young men, maids, wives, and widows. Who, by drawing Cards according to the direction of this Book, may know whether Life shall be long or short; whether they shall have the person desired; and every lawful question whatsoever. The signification of Moles in any part of the body; and the interpretation of Dreams, as they relate to good or bad fortune. Along with the change in author spelling there was a major change in the technique portrayed. For the first time we have instructions for a one-card spread and individual meanings given for each card (text appears below).

The individuals in the title are supposed to refer to Dr. John Flamsteed (1646 – 1719), the first Astronomer Royal, and Mr. John Partridge (1644-1715), a well-known writer of astrology books and almanacs and associate of the astrologer William Lilly. However, the names of both Partridge and Flamsteed were appropriated by others as documented by Adrian Johns in The Nature of the book: print and knowledge in the making, p. 619: “But did Flamsteed remain Flamsteed? The question of his identity had been a real one in his own time. Before him there had been no royal astronomical observer in England, and there is evidence that Flamsteed himself was represented by various contemporaries as a virtuoso, an astrologer, a rogue, pedagogue, and a pamphleteer.” He mentions, as an example, a pamphlet, purporting to be by Flamsteed, entitled Plemstadts most Strange and Wonderful Prophecy.

John Partridge was made famous by Jonathan Swift who, under the pseudonym Isaac Bickerstaff, wrote an April Fool’s prediction for the death of Partridge in a spoof astrological almanac (followed by an announcement of Partridge’s death on the date given), after which the name of the still-living-Partridge became legion, appearing on many spurious publications.

Whoever it was who wrote this book, we can be grateful for the first publication in English of playing card meanings. So, without further delay, the instructions and meanings according to Patridge and Flamsted’s new and well Experienced Fortune Book:

Directions whereby the Reader may be informed of the Rules in this Book.

Take a new pack of Cards. Shuffle them well together, he or she that holds them spreading them on the table, with their faces downwards; then those who draw must shut their eyes, and lay their right hand on their left breast, saying these words as they draw the Card, HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE [“Shame be on him who thinks evil of it”]; then look upon the Number, having recourse to the Book, so you’ll be satisfied in your good or bad fortune. [By 1730 there is evidence that more complex multi-card spreads were being used, instead of simply single cards; see here.]

I – Since this Ace it seems your lot,
You’ll wed one that is fierce and hot;
But if woman kind draws it,
She’ll have one with wealth and wit.

II – Hast thou drawn the number Two.
Thou’lt wed one that’s just and true;
But if woman this shall have
Beware of a sly cunning knave.

III – Having drawn the number three,
Honor will thy portion be;
But a maid who gets the same,
Must take heed of wanton shame.

IIII – The man who gets the number Four,
He must quite his native shore;
If the same be drawn by woman,
She’ll get a sweetheart out of hand.

V – He who draws the number Five,
Where he lives he best will thrive;
But if drawn by women-kind,
They better luck abroad will find.

VI – He that draws the number Six,
Will have sly and cunning tricks;
But if a woman draw the same,
If doth shew her free from blame.

VII – Since the Seven doth appear,
Crosses thou hast cause to fear;
Women who the same do draw,
Fear no crosses of a straw.

VIII – Hast thou got the number Eight,
Thou wilt be a cuckold great;
Females who the same do take,
Never will the truth forsake.

IX – Hast thou got the merry Nine,
Guineas will thy pocket line;
She that draw it with her hand,
Dies for love or leaves the land.

X – What the Ten? ’tis very well,
None in love can thee excel;
But the girl who gets the Ten,
Will be wed, but none know when.

King – This fair King of Diamonds shews,
Thou wilt live where pleasure flows;
But when women get the King,
Melancholy songs they’ll sing.

Queen – Now the Queen of Diamonds fair,
Shews you shall some office bear;
Women if it falls to you,
Friends you’ll have and not a few.

Knave – Is the Knave of Diamonds come,
Then beware the martial drum;
If a woman takes the Knave,
She shall better fortune have.

I – He that draws the Ace of Hearts,
Shall appear a man in parts;
She that takes it I profess,
Has the gift of idleness.

II – He that draws the Duce shall be,
Full of generosity;
But if the women take this card,
It doth shew very hard.

III – The poor man that draws this tray.
When he’s bound he must obey;
Women that shall take this sort,
Will drink brandy by the quart.

IIII – He that draws this Four shall make
Faithful love for conscience sake;
And if taken by women kind,
They’ll prove false and so you’ll find.

V – Note the Five of Hearts declares
Thou shalt manage great affairs;
But if took by women then
They’ll love any sort of men.

VI – Now the Six of Hearts foretels,
Thou shalt be where honour dwells;
If took by the other side,
It betokens scorn and pride.

VII – Now the Seven I will maintain,
Shews thou hast not lov’d in vain,
Thou shalt have the golden prize;
But with maids ’tis otherwise.

VIII – Having drawn the number Eight,
Shews the servile born to wait;
But if women draw the same,
They shall mount on wings of fame.

IX – By this Nine be well Assur’d
Thy love pains must be endured;
But the maid that draws the same,
Soon in wedlock bands shall join.

X – This Ten is a luck cast,
For it shews the worst is past;
But if maids the same should have,
Love will their kind hearts enslave.

King – But this Card it doth appear,
Thou shalt live in happy cheer;
And if a female takes this card,
Shall soon likewise be preferred.

Queen – By this Card it doth make known,
That thou shalt enjoy thy own;
Women if they take the same,
Shall enjoy a happy name.

Knave – He that draws the Knave of Hearts,
It betokens knavish parts;
But if the female takes the Knave,
She shall ne’er be no man’s slave.

I – You that draw the Ace of Spades,
Shall be flouted by the maids;
When it is a damsel’s lot,
Wit and humor go to pot.

II – Now this Duce betokens strife
With a foolish wanton wife;
If a woman’s lot it be,
Honour, love, and dignity.

III – Thou art happy in this tray,
And wilt wed some lady gay;
But girls who the same do take,
Wed with some poor town rake.

IIII – Now this Four betoken you
Must be of the horned crew;
Girls who get the like will meet
With the height of joys complete.

V – This Five of Spades give you to know,
That you must thro’ troubles go;
But if a virgin it foretells,
Her virtue others must excels.

VI – This Six foretells when you do wed,
You’ll have a cracked maidenhead;
But the girl this number draws,
She’ll wed one with great applause.

VII – Since the Seven’s come to hand,
It doth entitle thee to land;
But girls by this, wed with those
Who have no money, friends, or cloaths.

VIII – This Eight doth foretell you shall
Wed a woman strait and tall;
If to a girl the like doth come,
She weds the brother of tom thumb.

IX – By this Nine thou art foretold,
Thou shalt wed one lame and old;
Maids if they do get this chance,
May themselves to wealth advance.

X – ‘Tis seen by the Ten of Spades,
Thou wilt follow many trades,
Thrive by none.  But women they
By this chance can’t work, but play.

King – By this King observe and note,
You on golden streams will float;
Women by the self same lot,
Long enjoy what they have got.

Queen – There’s the Queen of Spades, likewise
Thou wilt soon to riches rise;
Women by the same will have
What they both desire and crave.

Knave – This is a Knave then have a care,
That thou dost not make a pair;
Women who the same do chose,
Will prove Sluts, but that’s no news.

I – He who gets this Ace of Clubs,
Must expect a thousand snubs
From his Wife.  But Girls again,
By this Card will rule and reign.

II – Note, this Duce doth signify,
That thou wilt a Christian die;
Damsels that the same shall take,
Never will their friends forsake.

III – You that now this tray have drawn,
Shall on cruel harlots fawn;
Women that shall take the tray,
To their friends shall answer nay.

IIII – By this four I plainly see,
Four brats shall be laid to thee;
Sine that takes the same must wed
Two rich husbands and well bred.

V – By this five I see that thou
Shall be wed to a dirty sow;
This same drawn by virgins, they
Shall take husbands kind and gay.

VI – By this six you’ll wed I know,
One that over you will crow;
Maids that take the same, shall be
Blest with husbands kind and free.

VII – Thou that hast the seven drawn,
Shall your breeches lay in pawn;
Maids that take the same, shall wear
Jewels rich beyond compare.

VIII – By this Eight, tho’ whig or quaker,
Thou wilt be a cuckold maker;
Maids that draw the same, are born
To hold the beaus and fops in scorn.

IX – What the Nine, upon my Life,
Thou shalt wed a wealthy wife;
She that draws the same, shall have
One that is both fool and knave.

X – Now this number half a score,
Shews thou wilt be wretched poor;
Maids that draw the number, still
Shall have joy and wit at will.

King – Here’s the King of Clubs, that shews
Thou hast friends as well as foes;
Maids that draw this court Card, shall
Have but few, or none at all.

Queen – If the Queen of Clubs thou hast,
Thou shalt be with honor graced;
Women if the same thy find,
Will have all things to their mind.

Knave – Now the vainly Knave appears,
He will cut off both your ears;
Women when the same they see,
Will be what they us’d to be.